It’s a Christmas miracle — if you like coffee.
As Tuesday morning dawned, residents and visitors along Florida’s shoreline called police to report an unusual sight: thousands of coffee cans mysteriously washed ashore.
But within a couple hours, people had stuffed most of it in garbage bags to bring home. The generous java fairy responsible is likely a shipping barge, which lost some of its cargo over the weekend, Florida Today reported.
But it wasn’t just yellow Café Bustelo containers and vacuum-sealed bricks that washed ashore — people reported seeing Ramen noodles, dog food, bird seed, and aerosol cans, according to local news reports.
Now, the shipping company, Tote Maritime, is sending officials to Florida to assess the damage, WPTV reported. As local officials did some assessment of their own, they noted that the coffee cans and other products have made for a very unsightly beach.
Among those combing the sand were two investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard, including marine science technician Elvin Rodriquez, who said Tote Maritime could be held responsible.
“We’re checking to make sure it’s nothing else but coffee. This is very unusual.”
But the coffee drinkers who arrived to clean up were ecstatic, like Nolan Bealle. He was visiting from North Carolina and decided on Tuesday morning to take a walk on the beach with his friend, Laura McKinney.
He said, “Next thing you know, (we had a) couple pounds of espresso to bring home.”
And what they found wasn’t the cheap stuff.
“You gotta go to the store to get this one… the specialty stores,” Beall said while excitedly holding up a package of Cuban espresso. “But when I saw it, I was like ‘ah, this is the good stuff!”
He also saw a few items that he considered “pretty hazardous” but didn’t specify what those items were.
Locals reported that packages coated the beach for at least a mile. Cans washed ashore on the Space and Treasure Coasts, and Ramen, dog treats, dog food, and bird seed washed ashore in two more counties.
The barge lost its cargo between Cape Canaveral and Palm Beach over the weekend, and the Coast Guard confirmed that up to 25 containers may have splashed into the ocean on their way to Puerto Rico; several may have contained hazardous materials, including batteries. Officials hadn’t determined the contents of all the other containers. The agency issued a safety warning to boats in the area as a result.
By at least Wednesday, the ship was off-loading in the Port of Palm Beach.
Tote Maritime hasn’t really commented, but a Café Bustelo spokeswoman did tell the Washington Post that the containers fell overboard “as result of rough weather conditions.”
Laurie Cus was one of the people out Tuesday morning collecting the cans that had washed ashore; she reported seeing thousands of them “as far as the eye could see even with binoculars” and that most were gone within a couple hours.
Local resident Leon Stein, who lives right on the ocean, was among those taking advantage of the advantageous spill. He said the coffee cans were sealed and appeared to be “usable.” Those that weren’t scavenged were cleared by the public works department and donated to a local charity for the homeless.
But the scavengers may want to hold off on drinking a nice hot cup of beached Café Bustelo — a company spokeswoman highly cautioned against it.
“We recommend that consumers dispose of any Cafe Bustelo product that may have washed ashore as the product/packing is likely to have been compromised.”
[Photo via YouTube]